Research Award will enhance understanding of leukemia

May 13, 2011

News Release

Research Award will enhance understanding of leukemia

Halifax, N.S., May 13, 2011— Finding new and better ways to treat childhood leukemia and ease the burden on patients and their families is the impetus behind Dr. Jason Berman's research.

Dr. Berman, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the IWK Health Centre and scientist with Dalhousie University, today, May 13, received Cancer Care Nova Scotia's Peggy Davison Clinician Scientist Award.

The award's research funding of $100,000 per year for three years will help Dr. Berman study white blood cell development, mast cell biology, leukemia and solid tumours using zebrafish. His work, unique in Canada, is linked to an international network of researchers and may help find better drugs to treat childhood and adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

"Health research is an investment in the future health of all Nova Scotians," said Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald. "Through his hard work, Dr. Berman will not only make life better for young patients, but will help provide better health care for all Nova Scotian families who are touched by this type of cancer."

Olivia Mason, the 11-year-old daughter of Tammy and Barry Mason of Bedford, has been Dr. Berman's patient since she was diagnosed with AML in February and is being treated at the IWK Health Centre.

"Knowledge gained through research means new treatments, better access to existing treatment, earlier diagnosis and more," said Dr. Carman Giacomantonio, chief medical director, Cancer Care Nova Scotia. "We are pleased to help further Dr. Berman's research through the Peggy Davison Award. We hope his work will mean an easier journey for children like Olivia."

The $100,000 per year funding may be renewed for a second three-year period after successful review. The award, named for Peggy Davison, inaugural board chair of Cancer Care Nova Scotia, was established in 2004. It reflects her commitment to the value of research to enhance and improve cancer care.

Dr. Berman was selected for the award after an international review by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute.

"Our goal is to find new treatments to help children like Olivia who have to endure the challenges of chemotherapy," said Dr. Berman. "This Peggy Davison award also enables us to continue to recruit the best and the brightest from across Canada and beyond to work with us, establishing our laboratory as an international centre of research excellence and fostering the training of the next generation of leading cancer researchers right here in Nova Scotia.

"We are linking with pharmaceutical companies to screen new drugs in our fish models of human cancer in an efficient and cost-effective way that was not previously possible in other systems. This work has tremendous potential to ultimately improve the outcome for children and adults with cancer across the province and across the country."

"We know first-hand the struggles that children endure going through intensive chemotherapy to treat AML," said Barry and Tammy Mason. "The current treatment is very difficult and it is heartbreaking to watch your child endure this illness and treatment.

"Olivia is strong and determined. We know she will make it. However, we anxiously await the day that Dr. Berman, and his team, announce that they have found an easier way to treat AML. With the Peggy Davison Award to Dr. Berman, we know that they are one step closer to that announcement."

The announcement was made by Cancer Care Nova Scotia and the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, which works with organizations to encourage research in Nova Scotia.

"Nova Scotia has a growing and vibrant cancer research community known for its highly collaborative and collegial environment,” said Dr. Jonathan Blay, scientific director of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute.

"We've been able to maximize our impact throughout the region by pooling our resources and energies. This helps us in recruiting and retaining the best of the best in cancer specialists and researchers."

The Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, established in 2009, partners with many organizations, including Cancer Care Nova Scotia and eight cancer support and fundraising agencies. It works to develop research capacity in Nova Scotia, to forge broad-based research collaborations and to create a unified focus for fundraising and community engagement.

Cancer Care Nova Scotia is a provincial program of the Department of Health and Wellness, which facilitates quality cancer prevention and care for Nova Scotians.

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Contact:  Christine Smith
Cancer Care Nova Scotia

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